Chapter 1: Requiem
"Eternal rest, grant them, O lord, and let eternal light shine upon them…" -Requiem Mass
April 10th, 1926 was a sunday. Mitzi was dressed in all black, and looked tired. Mostly, she was sad...wouldn't you be sad at your murdered husband's funeral? Everyone from the daisy was there...Zib, Ivy, Viktor, Mordecai, regular customers to people who'd just shown up.
Atlas May was a popular man, and officially died as a restaurateur in a failed home invasion. He'd been stabbed, and a knife was left at the scene….there was also no sign of a home invasion, implying all sorts of things, but a couple hundred dollars to the coroner was enough to keep that from getting released.
"Mitzi!" Rocky spotted her in the crowd. "Goodness, I'm so sorry about all this…"
"It's...alright." It wasn't. She'd actually come to love Atlas, even if at first their marriage was a bit of a power play.
"What does this mean for...y'know?"
"We're gonna have to punt, Rock, I dunno what else I can do…" A lot of folks had already left for the Marigold. Let's be honest with ourselves, not a lot of folks put faith in a country girl who played ukulele in a dixie band to run a business, even one she'd been a part of. The more conservative of these people figured she couldn't do it because it's a 'man's job', but a majority of them were from the city, and thought only a city person with an education could run something this big.
People were gonna leave. And people already had.
The ceremony went on. "We are gathered here today to celebrate the life, and mourn the loss, of Atlas May, a businessman who we all knew and loved…" no one showed much emotion. It was a crowd of investors come to watch their cash cow go down the drain, or a group of Marigold boys come to gloat, and the occasional mitzi loyalist, more full of despair than agony.
Mordecai handed some papers discreetly to a man in a gray coat, and Viktor watched as he did so...Viktor knew tonight would be awkward. "Mordecai." He put a hand on his shoulder. "No business, man is dead, ja?"
"I'm trying t-"
"Man is dead. Ja?" Mordecai nodded….but the business had been done. Mordecai ached. He hurt a lot about all of this, but...the marigold was the only employer left. He needed to eat...Atlas would have understood. Atlas would have understood. That played in his mind, as if trying to convince himself, holding back tears and clenching his teeth and fists.
Zib rubbed Mitzi's shoulder as the pastor spoke. "It's alright...there's nothing you could have done." He looked down at her. "He loved you, that was clear...he really did."
"It's awful he's gone, Zib."
"I know...we can work our way through this."
"...a passage from a poem by Henry Scott Holland for his wife before his death…"
Ivy looked down, nervously fidgeting with her dress...she knew Atlas. She liked Atlas, and was full of questions...where did they go from here? Was it all Mitzi's now? What if Ruby died, and Mitzi hadn't enough money? What if Mitzi got framed and went up the river? She looked around her, trying to get a good look at things...she managed to get her way to the front of the crowd. She was teary eyed, and meant it too. It was baffling to her how the death of one single man could change her world so fast...not even a man she loved, just a man she knew and enjoyed spending time with. She sniffled a little, and looked over to the pastor.
"...Speak of me in the same easy way you always did. Laugh, as we always laughed, at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Think of me and smile. Let my Atlas be the household Atlas it always was, Spoken without the shadow of a ghost in it…"
Mitzi broke. She just couldn't do this….she didn't care about the business, or the money, or her old age or where she'd be in the next five years. Her husband was dead. The man she loved was gone forever. All probably because of some stupid dispute, some senseless violence that was just for business...not even a personal reason. What a cold, heartless way to die, to be killed for business.
She bawled, and Zib and Rocky raced to help her. Ivy just...watched. She had no idea what to do. This woman had been a sort of rock for her, and that rock was dipping its head below the waves, never to return.
"...and so we meet then, to say goodbye, and to reflect in a simple, private way on Atlas May's all too short, yet colorful and wondrous life."
The crowd all sort of dispersed, some of the loyal ones coming to Mitzi to say a simple 'sorry for your loss'...Mordecai arrived.
"I'm sorry for everything you've lost." She hugged him. "I'll...I'll be alright."
"Are you sure?"
"Almost certain...I'll find a way to keep it all afloat." Mordecai nodded. "I hope so…" He held back even more tears. He shakily heaved in air. "...I'll miss him."
"We all will."
"I know...I'm glad I won't be alone in that." Mordecai removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He shook his head. "I must get going…" he took off. Ivy hugged Mitzi tightly. "Mitzi, I'm so sorry this all happened! It must all be so sudden!" Mitzi patted Ivy's back. "Now, now, sweetie...you're alright...goodness, you're gettin' tears all over me…"
"You're getting tears on me, too." She looked up and tried to smile. "I'm still with you all the way, Mitzi."
"At least a few people are…" she walked back to the little daisy cafe, and sat in the main dining room. She just sat at a table and thought. She looked up as the door opened, half expecting Atlas to show up. It was Rocky, Zib, Ivy, and Viktor...and, of course, Horatio. She looked up. "Sorry folks, not open tonight….go on home."
Zib shook his head. "We just want to figure out what's happening next."
"I do, too...I do, too." She had no idea what to do. Her husband was gone, she had no idea how to run a speakeasy, and she was just...frightened.
But no one ever got used to the water without jumping in first. She knew that.